Horses have been many things to me: an instrument of salvation, a gift from above, a storm, a heartbreak, a dream, the shattering of dreams, a gut-wrenching fear, a hope for the future, companionship, courage, a calling. But now, “my” horses – mine like siblings; they were always His – are, to me, worship.
My dance partners are how I praise the Lord when words won’t do. And they often don’t. Together, we sing the glory of the God too big for words, so big He’s praised in tiny things: a breath, a smile, a touch. Not only in dressage, but in grooming, in carrot stretches, in liberty.
Sometimes, of course, it’s a hot mess. Sometimes it’s all about percentages and my own inadequacies and fear and failure and shortcomings and temper and frustrations. It melts down and becomes something blackened and ugly. Then I sit in the wreckage, with a spooked and resistant horse and a broken heart, and I wonder how I could ever be forgiven.
Then I cry. And then worship becomes healing. It becomes the place where I can’t hold on and fall, only to find He was holding tight, all along.
It becomes forgiveness.
The world has been so heavy lately. I crack often under the pressure, with ugly consequences. So I have been giving much thought to surrender.
Horses have always been a place where I hear God’s voice speaking. And He speaks to me now.
I hear Him in the softness of Faith’s coat while I’m grooming and in the eagerness of her step while we work through the most basic stuff: trotting in hand, stopping without climbing on top of me, investigating the inside of a stable for the first time.
It’s all just the building blocks of being a horse in a world full of humans, but there’s nothing mundane about the threefold cord where loving God meets worshipping woman meets feeling beast.
I hear Him in the depths of our conversations, when I realise day by day that the horse I picked out of a field in fifteen minutes even though the others had better conformation – the horse I picked on the prompting of the Spirit, in faith – that horse has the most incredible, curious, thinking, eager and willing mind.
I hear Him in the playfulness of Magic’s body language as we play with rein back, turn on the forehand, lunging, little fences all without even a touch, with sounds and gestures. It shouldn’t work but it works for him, and it’s playtime for the both of us at the end of the day when we’ve both been facing our giants and just want to enjoy the beautiful world for once.
I hear Him in the shift of Thunder’s back, the swing of it, the suppleness. I hear Him in the joy that leaps inside me when I feel him melt and move between hand and leg with a newfound softness that can only be born of relaxation, of joy – his, not mine.
His transitions are so much better now. I’ve been more disciplined about not saying what I don’t mean with my leg, and suddenly I can speak in touches and breaths.
I don’t delight so much because it’s brilliant, anymore. I delight because it’s ours and we’re His. It’s a different place. Somewhere almost holy.
I hear Him in the courage of Arwen, in her fire, in the dauntless enthusiasm with which she bursts out and attacks every task she’s given.
I hear Him when our canter-walks stay terrible, when she doesn’t stretch in the circle with break of contact, when she hollows into the transition – yes, I hear Him even then, louder than our mediocrity, louder than the fact that I don’t really know what I’m doing at this level just yet. I hear Him louder and every day we get just a little bit better – at dressage, at each other, at life.
And I hear Him sing in the shine on Skye’s coat and the light in her eyes and the way we still know each other better than anybody else.
I hear Him, and He just keeps saying the same thing over and over with that particular relentless compassion and unquenchable determination and ineffable patience that only He has: “I Am, I Am bigger, and I love you. I Am, I Am bigger, and I love you.”
That’s why, though I fail, though I fall, though it’s too heavy, though I let Him down, though I hurt him, though I break, though I am nothing – that’s why I call Him Abba. Abba is a Hebrew word, and it doesn’t mean Father.
It means Daddy.
So here’s one more thing the horses are to me: they are the place where I realise, again, anew, that I am in Abba’s arms.
Glory to the King.
So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” – Romans 8:15